St. Mary's County Times January 11, 2018 - Page 13

The County Times Thursday, January 11, 2018 Feature 13 State Leaders Get Ready for Annapolis 2018 By Guy Leonard Staff Writer Sen. Steve Waugh Sen. Steve Waugh, head of the Dist. 29 delegation to Annapolis told supporters Tuesday night at a fund raiser that they could expect a “bumpy ride” at some point during this year’s legislative session but he was upbeat about the prospects for victory on tax reform, public safety and transportation. Waugh said he would reintroduce a bill this year that would bring more highway user fees back to the local jurisdictions after years of them being taken up by the state to balance budgets. Waugh said these funds were the main source of revenue counties and towns had to repair local bridges and roads and build new key infrastructure; he had a bill that would have brought more money back to St. Mary’s last year but it failed. “We’re going to take another shot at it again this year,” Waugh said. Another issue likely to be a center of debate is wheth- er to exempt veterans’ retirement pay from taxation. Waugh said he expected Gov. Larry Hogan to intro- duce and support a bill exempting veterans retirements but he also believed other bills on the issue would come in modifying the formula and coming up with a per- centage that would be exempted from taxation. Waugh said he supported legislation that would in- clude in high school curriculums’ d rivers education how to deal with a traffic stop ordered by a law en- forcement officer. “Hopefully that would bring down stress levels for both officers and these young people,” Waugh said. Some sort of tax reform package was a necessity this session, he said, to conform with federal legislation signed by President Trump. The governor has already announced legis- lation that would help preserve citizens tax re- turns and Waugh said other tax reform bills would also make it into the legislative hopper. “The only question is whether the state will keep the tax money or whether you will keep it,” he told his sup- porters at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum. “It has to happen.” When it comes to the slew of legislative proposals that Hogan has announced, from victims’ rights legis- lation to greater education reform and accountability the governor’s proposals have found favor with the lo- cal delegation but one is controversial even to them. Tuesday afternoon Hogan proposed legislative term limits for state elected leaders equal to the term of ser- vice for the governor; citing the will of the founding generation that they “never envisioned professional politicians.” Del. Deb Rey (R-Dist. 29 B) praised much of Ho- gan’s legislative efforts but said she could not support term limits. “He has some very good proposals which we are def- initely getting behind,” Rey told The County Times. “But I’ve always been against term limits. “I’m for term limits in the executive branch but on the legislative side the ballot box is the term limit.” Rey had hopes that the tax credit on oyster shell re- cycling could be extended and she also planned on re- introducing a concealed handgun carry bill that would allow applicant’s to get their permit to carry a defen- sive weapon but have about four months to complete the Maryland State Police training requirement. “We want you to be able to get preliminary approval and get 120 days to get the training,” Rey said. Under the current law the training requirement must be fulfilled before getting the carry permit. For county-centered legislation, such as a bond bill that would allow the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County to borrow about $24 million for capital con- struction projects, the state delegates have yet to take a position, she said. “We haven’t made a decision yet…on the bond bill or any of the bills given to us,” Rey said Tuesday evening. At a legislative meeting with the commissioners back in December state leaders seemed to signal that they would be somewhat supportive of another bond bill. The delegation planned to meet Tuesday to decide on which bills from the county they would support, she said. Bills that were presented by the delegation, such as the possible bond bill, she expected to pass easily but Del. Matt Morgan bills that had individual legislators names on them, such as her concealed carry bill she expected to have great difficulty. “That’s only because it’s an election year,” Rey said of majority Democrats wanting to quash Republican bills. “But this is good policy.” She also expected Democrats to attempt an override of Hogan’s veto last year of the paid sick leave bill. “I just don’t see that government’s role is to tell em- ployers you have to give paid sick leave,” Rey said. Del. Matt Morgan (R-Dist. 29 A) said he wanted to continue working on reducing taxes and working to find ways to make health care more affordable. “I do anticipate trying to put in a health care bill to reduce costs,” Morgan said. “People who’ve had it all their lives are finding it almost impossible to continue to afford it. “It makes sense to create a pool for healthy people with lower mandated premiums.” But that might also make costs for those with pre- existing conditions “skyrocket,” Morgan said. There were only two insurers left in Maryland where there were once seven, he said. “We’re looking for some kind of free market solu- tion,” said Morgan. Morgan said he had supported term limits in the past but felt the governor’s solution was a half measure. “The answer really is redistricting,” Morgan said. “Term limits are a quick fix for a broader problem.” guyleonard@countytimes.net Del. Deb Rey